The Monstered Self

Narratives of Death and Performance in Latin American Fiction

The Monstered Self

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: Published: March 1992

Latin American Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

Viewing stories and novels from an ethnographic perspective, Eduardo González here explores the relationship between myth, ritual, and death in writings by Borges, Vargas Llosa, Cortázar, and Roa Bastos. He then weaves this analysis into a larger cultural fabric composed of the works of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Joyce, Benjamin, H. G. Wells, Kafka, Poe, and others.
What interests González is the signature of authorial selfhood in narrative and performance, which he finds willfully and temptingly disfigured in the works he examines: horrific and erotic, subservient and tyrannical, charismatic and repellent. Searching out the personal image and plot, González uncovers two fundamental types of narrative: one that strips character of moral choice; and another in which characters' choices deprive them of personal autonomy and hold them in ritual bondage to a group. Thus The Monstered Self becomes a study of the conflict between individual autonomy and the stereotypes of solidarity.
Written in a characteristically allusive, elliptical style, and drawing on psychoanalysis, religion, mythology, and comparative literature, The Monstered Self is in itself a remarkable performance, one that will engage readers in anthropology, psychology, and cultural history as well as those specifically interested in Latin American narrative.


“González’s masterly scrutiny of short stories and novels by Borges, Cortazar, Wells, Vargas Llosa and Roa Bastos elucidates the ways in which death, metamorphosis and transfiguration are closely linkd to [the] dual character of performance.” — Elzbieta Sklodowska, Modern Fiction Studies

“This is a challenging book for any reader but well worth the journey that González takes us on as he explores important literary texts from both an ethnographic and psychoanalytic perspective. . . . These essays examine the relationship between death and transfiguration and reflect a firm belief that the notion of character entails a complex union between recognition and transformation.” — John J. Hassett, Revista de Estudios Hispanicos

"The Monstered Self by Eduardo González achieves a level of clarity, aesthetic insight and intellectual power that are scarce in criticism at any time and have been sadly lacking in Latin American literary criticism. With this book we have commentary worthy of Borges, Cortazar, Vargas Llosa and company. . . . González gives new meaning to intertextuality through his commentary. Point of view, narrator, narrative voice are all inadequate terms when dealing with postmodernism; monstered self is uniquely apt." — Mario J. Valdés, University of Toronto

"A haunting meditation on death and narrative, with suggestive readings of Borges, Cortázar, and Roa Bastos. A major contribution to the study of modern Spanish American narrative." — Daniel Balderston, Tulane University

"Working at the intersection of mythography, psychoanalysis and Latin American narrative, Eduardo González has written a brilliant book. In the Hispanic field I can think of no one who compares fairly with his sheer range and mastery of these fields of research." — Enrico Mario Santí, Georgetown University


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Eduardo González is Professor of Hispanic Studies at the Johns Hopkins University.

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Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1209-3
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